The Secret Service warned the public to be on the lookout for emails that claim to contain information on the coronavirus but are instead fraudulent attempts to gain remote access to computers and email accounts.
“Cyber criminals are exploiting the coronavirus through the wide distribution of mass emails posing as legitimate medical and or health organizations,” the Secret Service wrote. “The coronavirus is a prime opportunity for enterprising criminals because it plays on one of the basic human conditions … fear. Fear can cause normally scrupulous individuals to let their guard down and fall victim to social engineering scams, phishing scams, non-delivery scams, and auction fraud scams.”
The Secret Service is a federal law enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security known best for guarding the president and other major government officials. However, its agents at the Global Investigative Operations Center also probe currency and fraud matters.
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In one instance reported to the federal agency, victims received an email from a bogus medical organization that contained attachments with what it described as important information about the global epidemic. The danger, the agency said, was that when victims clicked on the attachments, malware would be automatically installed on their device. Once malware is installed, it opens that person up to more cybercrimes, including the theft of work-related and personal information and account takeovers that may include a ransom demanded by the cyberthief.
The growth in companies asking employees to work from home to avoid getting or sharing the virus also increases the chance of cybercrime, the Secret Service said. Teleworking depends on email communication, and employees should pay attention to emails sent to work accounts that are from people they do not know.